Income inequality and opinion expression gap in the American public: an analysis of policy priorities


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Yildirim T. M. , BULUT A. T.

JOURNAL OF PUBLIC POLICY, 2022 (SSCI) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.1017/s0143814x22000253
  • Journal Name: JOURNAL OF PUBLIC POLICY
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, IBZ Online, International Bibliography of Social Sciences, Periodicals Index Online, ABI/INFORM, Educational research abstracts (ERA), Geobase, PAIS International, Political Science Complete, Public Administration Abstracts, Public Affairs Index, Social services abstracts, Sociological abstracts, Worldwide Political Science Abstracts
  • Keywords: income level, policy priorities, the most important problem, the USA, ECONOMIC-INEQUALITY, DONT KNOW, POLITICAL INEQUALITY, PREFERENCES, KNOWLEDGE, DYNAMICS, REPRESENTATION, PARTICIPATION, ATTITUDES, RESPONSES
  • Karadeniz Technical University Affiliated: Yes

Abstract

Past scholarship has documented that the poor are more likely to withhold their policy preferences in public opinion surveys, suggesting income gaps in political engagement. Despite the wealth of scholarly interest in opinion formation, however, previous studies focused almost exclusively on opinion gaps in preferences, leaving income-related gaps in policy prioritisation virtually unexamined. Drawing on 596 public opinion surveys conducted with nearly 700,000 Americans over 55 years, we make a comprehensive attempt to examine income-level differences in "don't know" responses to the most important problem (MIP) question. Our results show that the less affluent are more likely to say "don't know" when asked about the MIP facing their country, even after controlling for various factors including educational attainment and political attention. Importantly, we also show that income-related differences in opinionation cross cut other socio-economic differences in policy prioritisation. These results have important implications for the study of public opinion.